Dwayne Betts is Awarded 2021 MacArthur Fellowship


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October 11, 2021

Dwayne Betts is Awarded 2021 MacArthur Fellowship

  • child separation
  • contributing author
  • MacArthur Fellowship
  • Poetry
  • prison
  • United States

 “When you’re trapped in a cell literally, words are your only lifeline, and I committed myself to using them to find some semblance of hope.”

—Reginald Dwayne Betts

Several months ago Democracy Seminar hosted a conversation between Dwayne Betts and Irena Grudzińska-Gross about poetry and prison. Irena, a literary scholar and former political prisoner in communist Poland, is the author of Czesław Miłosz and Joseph Brodsky: Fellowship of Poets, and a recent Guggenheim Fellow. Dwayne, a poet and legal scholar, is the author of the poetry collection Felon. As a sixteen-year-old he committed a carjacking and subsequently spent eight years in an American prison. This month Dwayne was awarded the 2021 MacArthur Fellowship for bringing literature to prisons, and promoting the humanity of the incarcerated. Their conversation was part of the Democracy Seminar’s forum “On the Uses and Disadvantages of Historical Comparisons for Life.”

Reginald Dwayne Betts; Photo credit: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation